The Cost — and the Value — of a Website

Last night I went to talk with Joe McCoy’s marketing class about online copywriting. In among the discussions of keywords and effective web copy and calls to action, the question of money and pricing arose.

“I have a small family business,” one student said. “I don’t have time to run my business and keep up with all these things. And I can’t afford to hire someone.”

I have sympathy for this point of view. But only limited sympathy. If your prospective customers go to see your poor quality website, which you haven’t updated and don’t promote, and they choose to go to your competitor instead, then you’ll lose a lot more money than you would have spent on having a good quality website and someone to take care of it.

And I, personally, paid for a professionally designed website and the software to take care of it myself as part of starting my own business. I earned that money back quickly, and I know that it was far less than the cost of opening and maintaining an office.

But let’s suppose that we’re talking about a very small business, barely squeaking by, which simply can’t scrape up the funds for a website. What can they do? Joe and I had some thoughts on this for the class:

  • You can get a website up and sort of running for a very small amount of money. It will probably fail. It doesn’t make sense to throw that money away. You’re better off going ahead and getting your domain name registered, and saving the rest of the small amount toward the actual cost of a website.
  • A web firm will be happy to give you a specific proposal and estimate including the complete cost for getting your site up and running, and they’ll be able to give you the costs for a full year if you ask them to. You can then, as the student herself suggested, put that into your business plan as a cost you’ll have to cover.
  • Joe made the point — and others have said this from their own experience, too — that businesses trying to squeak by on the least expenditure sometimes don’t have the level of commitment they’d have if they went ahead and put some funds into the process. Could that be true for you?
  • If you can’t afford a good website, then you can rely on social media while you save up. I wrote about a business that did just this in “Doing Social Media Right.” The business in question now has a website, though it may not be of the quality they’ll eventually want. Still, it’s a good start, and their successful social media campaign probably made it possible.
  • You can also think about banding together with others to get a group website. A collection of musicians, alternative health care providers, or other complementary businesses could club together to get a group website, and later add links to individual sites as you succeed in creating them.






2 responses to “The Cost — and the Value — of a Website”

  1. Joe McCoy Avatar
    Joe McCoy

    I feel your pain on this one!

    I get calls that start "Everybody is telling me I have to get a website."

    These people think that a website is a COST rather than a BENEFIT. That viewpoint, if maintained, is a recipe for poor performance.

    I help potential clients define their projected ROI (Return on Investment) for a good website. Increased sales, reduced sales management costs, higher sales conversions, reduced traditional ad costs, reduced administrative time & mistakes, and even travel costs reduction go into the calculation.

    Looking at the benefits of a website changes their viewpoint and increases their commitment to a successful project.

  2. Rebecca Haden Avatar
    Rebecca Haden

    Absolutely! In fact, with new Web 2.0 functionality and RIA developments, a website can even take the place of other software or systems, reducing workload and costs for postage, filing, and other such back-office expenses.
    We ought to include those things in our proposals — sounds like you do, so I'd better catch up!

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